Before I get into the topic of tools used for magick, I want to make something very clear: you don’t need any special tools to do magick. Magick, and indeed many spiritual activities, utilize the language of metaphor and magical tools are simply metaphors you can hold in your hands. They symbolize concepts and act as channels for our energy and our ideas. In truth, magick is a creative process and if tools strike your creativity then they are useful to you. If they are physical things that are getting in the way of your progress, they must be abandoned.
The idea that you need special tools to perform magick implies that you either need to have the funds to purchase these tools, or the skills to make them; neither statement is true. You can do without, or you can create an “astral” version of these tools (yes, pretend) if you like. If you really feel the need to have special tools but feel that obtaining them is out of reach at this time, you can also create suitable substitutes from everyday objects around the house. What makes an item special is not who made it or what sort of image is carved into it, but your decision to believe it is special. Remember, our spiritual ancestors were not necessarily wealthy and having a special knife that was never used for cutting but only for channeling energy would have been rather an extravagance- and evidence that could be used by witch-finders.
That all being said, if you are going to go out into the world and consort with other magic-users, it’s nice to know what sort of tools you are going to encounter, even if you never use them. And, if you are do want to use magickal tools, you should know what your options are. So we begin.
Types of Magical Tools
Magical tools generally come in two different types. Pointing tools and containers. And these, in addition to performing certain functions are generally considered male (pointing) and female (containers). There are exceptions to everything, of course. The pointing/male tools generally direct energy outward, while your containers/female tools contain the energy to combine and transform.
Some pointing tools you’ll hear about are the wand, rod, staff, besom, athame, and sword. All of these are used to direct energy in one way or another. Their functions can be imitated using a finger or visualization in many cases, though you do sometimes need a blade or a pointy thing for practical reasons.
Containers you will often see include the cauldron, chalice, mortar, sachet, fire bowl or censer. These symbolize gestation and transformation. Energy or physical objects may be put into them and stirred about (or otherwise manipulated) with one of your pointy objects in order to bring about the desired result.
Please follow the links to these various tools to get a better idea of what they are and how they are used.
Holding a staff or a blade can make you feel powerful and holding a besom can certainly make you feel witchy. Feeling magical is a big part of being magical. Rhythmic stirring or pounding helps to build and focus energy, so, at the very least, a mortar and pestle are well worth having, but a bowl or a pot and a wooden spoon may serve you just as well, depending on what you’re mixing up.
What I am saying is that there is a huge variety of tools to choose from and each magick user must decide which tools are right for them. A witch who makes potions and salves is going to want a special container to mix them up with. A hearth and home witch might want a special besom for her home cleansing rituals. A witch who thrives on ceremony might wish to utilize an impressive blade and an ornate chalice to get the mood just right. However, if tools become a hindrance instead of help, they should be abandoned.
In addition to these general magical tools, there are more specialized tools. Divination tools such as rune stones, tarot cards and scrying mirrors may be used to gain wisdom and insight or may become crutches interfering with your spiritual growth.
In addition to your tool kit, you will use a number of consumable magical components, like candles and incense and paper and you may wish to have a dedicated candle holder, incense burner or censer and pen. But they don’t need to be fancy or expensive unless you want them to be.
Many people also keep statuary of their Gods with their tools to remind them of their divine presence during spellwork or to dedicate their spellwork to their Gods. Again, if you do not feel you can afford a nice statue now, do not let that interfere with your work. Instead, look up images of them online, print them out and keep those with your tools. One day you can buy yourself a gorgeous statue for your birthday.
And if you feel you can’t do a spell because you don’t have the right tools, I urge you to improvise. Old witches often have a large collection of tools yet rarely use them, finding a kitchen knife and a dollar store votive candle do the job just fine.
Making Tools Magical
Any object can be a magical tool if you know it to be. Remember that what is important is not what we think, but what our subconscious mind believes. In the case of a tool that was obviously designed for ritual use, with arcane symbols and lots of sparkle, your subconscious might not need much convincing, but if you’re improvising with a stick you picked up on the side of the road, you might need to do a little more work. There are ceremonies for this.
But before we get into the ceremonies, there are a few other considerations. Your subconscious mind is going to have an easier time knowing something is special if it is obtained in a special way. Here are some examples.
1. Family heirlooms often come with their own significance and emotional attachment. Sanctifying them into magical service is not much of a stretch.
The knife that your great grandfather carried in the army could be used as a ritual blade.
A compact that belonged to your great grandmother could be used as a scrying mirror.
Your great aunt’s dutch oven would make a great cauldron.
2. Natural objects from special places.
Did your parents plant a tree when you were born or when they got married? Or is there a special tree that you fondly remember climbing in or playing under as a child? This would be the perfect source for a staff, a wand or a broom handle.
3. Purpose-made objects
If you buy a product from an occult store that is selling it for that purpose, you are more likely to accept that this is its purpose. This effect will be stronger if you physically go to the store and talk to the proprietor about the product rather than ordering it online. Likewise, if you create your own tool, especially if you do it in a ceremonial setting, your tool will always seem more magical to you.
None of this is to say that you can’t just find the perfect chalice at the Salvation Army. Gaia loves recycling.
Cleansing, Sanctifying and Charging Tools for Magick
Once a tool is obtained, a magic-user will generally perform a ceremony to cleanse
the tool of any energies it might have picked up before coming into their possession. They may then sanctify the tool, or symbolically reserve it for magical practice, and/or they may charge the tool with energy directed toward a specific purpose.
Not everyone bothers, but it is good practice because performing rituals like these help cement in our subconscious mind the special-ness of the object and this, in turn, makes it feel more natural and magical when it is used for spellwork.
Sanctifying the tool usually involves two steps, first the tool is cleansed or purified of any residual energies using whatever method best suits the magic-user’s tradition and personal sensibilities, then it is declared a sacred object specifically for magical practice. Many Kitchen Witches allow their various kitchen tools to do double duty as mundane utensils and magical objects. In this case, your wording might be a bit different, even if you consider cooking to be a magickal act. Ritual language should be a little more flowery than this, but your general idea should be something like “I have washed away everything that is mundane about this (tool) and declare it forever after to be a sacred magical item to aid me in commanding my Will be done.” etc. Symbolic actions such as passing it through fire or fragrant smoke, anointing it with oil, burying it and digging it back up again later further symbolize the tool’s transformation from mundane to magical.
Charging a tool, or programming it, infuses the tool with the energy of your intention. Again, the tool is generally cleansed according to tradition and there’s no reason not to sanctify it as well. Then energy is raised while focusing on the intention for the energy and it is directed into the tool. At some point during the ceremony, it is important to state out loud the intention that the tool is being infused with and its purpose, so the tool and your subconscious mind hear it. For example, you may wish to charge a scrying glass to reveal truth, or a sword to protect you from unfriendly energies or an offering dish to accept offerings of gratitude. Again, ritual actions such as anointing the item with oil, sprinkling it with water, passing it through a flame or fragrant smoke all help further strengthen the spell. In this case, you may wish to incorporate items such as herbs, oils, crystals and candles or other objects of appropriate colors to correspond to your intent.
Once a tool has been charged and/or sanctified, it is ready to use.
Ongoing Care of Magical Tools
Your magical tools should be cared for as meticulously as any craftsman cares for their tools. They should be kept clean and dry, stored out of the elements and away from curious fingers and they should be regularly oiled or polished if it’s called for and otherwise well-taken care of. If blades are meant to be sharp, they should be sharpened periodically. Stones and stitching should be regularly checked to make sure nothing is coming loose.
Some people repeat the cleansing, sanctification and/or charging process on a regular bases, but I am of the opinion that this isn’t necessary unless the tool was used for a contrary purpose or otherwise polluted. If it is damaged and needs to be repaired, the ritual can be repeated once it has been returned to working order.
If you wish to retire a tool and it is something that will biodegrade, it can be buried or burned. If you are making a new tool, consider burning it your ritual fire prior to sanctifying the new tool to symbolize the death of the old to make way for the new. If it is an object that can still be used again, you may wish to simply cleanse it and declare it once more mundane before returning it to mundane service, as you may wish to do with a pot that was used as a cauldron or a wine glass that was used as a chalice.